Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Magic

I originally posted this story on December 10, 2008. It's my intention to share it every year as it's an important part of my childhood.

I believe that Christmas is full of magic. Some of it comes from the things people do and some of it comes from angels, miracles, God, etc. My magic Christmas was full of both kinds of magic.

My mom and I struggled when I was a child. She was a single parent until I was 10. She was in dental school full time, working part time, we lived on student loans and her meager income. Lots of assistance from our church family. But not always an abundance of food. No extras for parties or presents or brand new clothes. Living in a safe neighborhood but not a great neighborhood. So Christmas was never a big deal. I wanted it to be. But there weren't traditions that we followed. We didn't have much family around so that wasn't an option. I remember traveling to spend a Christmas with my birth father's family one year. That would have been when I was 4 or 5. I have seen the pictures of the holidays with my grandparents in their home before they moved away (we lived in Lexington and they moved to Elizabethtown).

So mom and I were sometimes on our own for Christmas. We sometimes went to wherever the family was. And one year, we went to visit a family friend. A husband and wife with 3 boys of their own. The oldest was a year or so older than me and the middle son was a year or so younger than me. The youngest was a baby at the time. They had a nice house. A tri-level. The boys had oodles of cool things to play with. It was through this family that I learned of Doctor Who and He-Man and Star Wars (Jeff thanks them for this). Their Mom was warm and kind and smiling eyes. And gave amazing, wrap you up and make everything else disappear hugs. Dad was a scientific type and had a wicked little sense of humor that fantastically embarrassed his children. Not having a dad of my own at this point, I was absolutely in awe of this man. So we make the drive (they lived in Illinois, I think, so it was a long haul) with plans to spend several days with these friends. I don't remember most of the visit. I do remember Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

I was used to being the kid who didn't have what everyone else had. I was used to masking my jealousy, my desires. I was used to protecting myself and my mom from my disappointment and hurt. So I was prepared for that.

The first part of the memory is Christmas Eve. We kids were sent off to bed after the live tree had been put up. Just the tree, bare. No lights, no decorations. The 3 of us (not including the baby) shared a room and spent a lot of time giggling and snorting and laughing and talking and getting told to hush and go to sleep, being threatened with a lack of Santa... you know the drill. I didn't believe in Santa anymore but kept my mouth shut for the sake of the younger of the 2 boys. As we goof off, we are watching out the window from time to time. It was a cold, clear, bright night. And there was a very bright star right outside the window. The adults told us it was the North Star, the same Star that the shepherds and Kings followed to find the stable... we goof off some more and look out the window... the star has moved to the other side of the window. From the right side to the left side. We holler for the adults... and get the "time passes, the earth rotates, blah, blah, blah" answer. So we keep talking and telling stories and look up again... IT MOVED BACK. Major freakout, adults don't believe us, mini-chaos ensues. The adults brush it off and tell us to get to sleep, they shut the blinds. It's the last I remember from that night. Sleep must have followed soon after. Or we ended up separated, who knows.

Then the morning comes. The oldest son is awake and excited and jumping around, running up and down the hallway, eager for everyone to wake so we can go downstairs and see the presents. No one had been downstairs yet (their family tradition was that the family goes down together). Remember... this is a tri-level home. So you come down from the bedrooms, into the living room, turn the corner to head down to the den... the kitchen overlooks it... we scramble into the kitchen to look over into the den...


I had never seen anything so magnificent in my life. I still haven't. The tree was decorated and lit with tiny white lights. There was gold paper and decorations everywhere. There were stockings overflowing on the mantle of the fireplace. The presents... the pile at the bottom of the tree spilled out onto the surrounding floor and spread all the way down the length of the fireplace. I got very caught up in the moment. No one could see that sight and not get caught up in the magic. Overnight, the room went from a plain old den to a Christmas Wonderland. It was amazing.

Reality hit soon though. No matter how exciting it is to see a huge pile of presents... the disappointment of knowing they aren't YOUR presents does eventually sink in. So while the 2 boys went racing down the steps so they could start dividing out who got what present, I hung back and put on my mask to cover the disappointment. To steel myself for the watching of the boys opening their piles while I probably opened 1 or 2 gifts.

I came down the stairs with my mom. And there was a pile for me. A large pile. More than 1 or 2 presents. My mom had tears in her eyes... she didn't even know how much this family had done for us. There were envelopes in that tree... to this day, I don't know what all was in them but my assumption is gift certificates and cash for my mom. And I sat down and slowly began to open my gifts. So beautifully wrapped, with gold, glowing bows. I wanted the morning to last forever. I wanted the magic to stay with me forever. The boys tore through their openings, ripping through paper, tossing aside ribbons.

It was my magic Christmas. I don't remember most of what I got that year. I believe it was mostly clothing and practical things. But I was given a beautiful doll. Not a baby doll. But a blond haired doll with eyes that opened and closed and she wore a gorgeous brown velvet Victorian style dress with a matching hat and little black velvet shoes and tiny little white lace pantaloons. I never named her but I did keep her.

Christmas is just days away... And I will remember that most magical of Christmases... when I learned about compassion and humanity and felt included and loved in a way I hadn't ever expected or anticipated. And I will continue to work to teach my daughter and my son that same lesson. To this day, I work to pay forward the kindnesses that were done for me and my mom. Especially at Christmastime. Because every child, every person deserves a Magic Christmas!

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cuss Words

Fair warning - this post will contain some adult language not normally found on this blog.

I've been waiting for this day. And I'm honestly surprised that we made it to 4th grade without much incident. I've always been of the assumption that once you reach the upper levels of elementary, you've started being exposed to bigger topics and broader world visions than what you get at home. 

I know I first started hearing cuss words on the bus.  I would have been pretty young - I'm thinking maybe 2nd grade or so.  I also remember getting mad at my mom and writing some cuss words on my wall with a pencil. She cleaned it up and then we sat down and had a conversation about cuss words. What I really remember was her explanation as to why she sometimes liked to use the word "shit."  It starts out soft with the shhhhh sound and then ends with a hard and angry sound - T.  

My mom wasn't much of a cusser.

When Jeff and I met, he had quite a vocabulary. When I got pregnant, he knew he had to change his ways. So he started subbing the word "smurf" for the cuss words.  Which sometimes led to some very funny sentences. But it did change the habit.

We aren't a house that cusses. And we are mindful of language around the kids. When I do cuss, it's at work or out with a friend and not generally just randomly sprinkled in my conversation but more to provide emphasis or emotion.

So my kids haven't really been exposed to a lot of cuss words.  And when they have been in a room where someone says Shit or Damn... we just haven't really reacted. We don't give power to the word.

Recently, I was home with the kids and Jeff was out. Teagan tells me that she had an interesting experience at the before care program that morning.  A kid was running around telling people to say "gay bitches." Teagan then says "And I fell for it until my friend told me it was bad and so I stopped Zach - thankfully, he didn't say it!"

I love that kids think that saying a cuss word is an action that might cause you to implode or something. Like the act of saying the word is the bad part - not the meaning of the word. I like that because, at least for my kids, they haven't learned the power of those bad words yet. The words themselves don't hold meaning... so it's akin to a bad thing like stealing or hitting someone. Saying the words is a bad action to them.

Teagan goes on to tell me that she didn't know what those words meant. So I took a deep breath and knew it was time to address the topic.

We know what the word gay means and in our family, it isn't a bad word. But sometimes people use it like it's a bad thing to be gay. 

Bitch is a derogatory term used towards women. Then I have to explain what "derogatory" means.

Then I ask if they've heard any other words that they know are bad words but they don't understand them...

Teagan says she's heard kids talk about "the s word" but she doesn't know what that word is...

*deep breath*

So I explain that the word is "shit."

Zach wants to know what the words means.

Well, it's another word for poop but it's mostly a term people use when they are angry or frustrated. 

Zach looks at me, very seriously, and says...

"So if I say "You look like shit," I'm going to get in trouble?"

Yep. You will get in trouble, buddy. 

We then go on to the word "ass." Which I explain means butt or donkey. But again, it's a word people use when they are angry and they aren't really using it with that meaning to it.

Teagan then tells me...

"I hear Daddy use ass in the car when he's driving. A lot."

I thought we were done at this point. I thought we'd made it through. I didn't want to get to the "f bomb" because I didn't want to try and explain the definition of the word. 

But it seems to be over.


"Mom, what does "frickin" mean?"

I just explain that it's a substitute word for a really bad word and that people use it when they are angry or frustrated (notice that pattern of anger and frustration).

And days later, I realize that I've caught myself using "frickin" far more often in my home than I had been aware of... 

Lesson learned. Little pitchers have big ears. They hear everything and absorb everything... even the things we aren't aware of. 

Teagan starts 5th grade next year and I know we will be facing a lot more of these kinds of topics. I'm relieved that it took this long to really be exposed to "bad words." I'm glad my kids held on to some of this innocence for as long as they did. I'm glad we've built our home in a community and in a church where my kids have been able and will continue to be able to be children and not forced to grow up too soon, too quickly. 

For some, cuss words are no big deal. For me, cuss words are a step into a more adult world. And I'm fine with holding that off for as long as possible.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Baby Jesus Class Project

I've never participated in this sort of school project but most any TV show involving a school certainly has - being tasked with caring for a "baby."  Usually part of a health class and always a source of humor as the robotic baby won't stop crying or the potato baby loses an appendage.

The purpose of the assignment is generally to teach a young teen that a baby is a serious responsibility and that you can't just treat it like a toy.  You can't just take for granted that you can turn it off or leave it in a drawer or whatever.

Kind of like Jesus.

Bear with me here.

It's that time of year that we start hearing all kinds of shouts of "Keep Christ in Christmas!"

I'm not necessarily one of those type of folks.  For me, Christmas is a religious holiday and it is the celebration of the birth of Christ.  No, I don't believe that Jesus was literally born on December 25.  Yes, I do believe that Christmas has roots that go further back than the noted life of Christ himself.

I also believe that there isn't anything anyone can do that will take Christ *out* of my Christmas.  If that's how I choose to celebrate, that is how I will celebrate.  I don't give any government or group or person or store or advertisement enough power to take Jesus away from me or from my holiday.

I saw this on Facebook today:

And I think it's an important message.  We can yell and scream about "our" holiday being commercialized... or we can live like Christ, set the example, seek to be more like the man we study and our example will scream louder than our angry sentiments about a holiday.

Want to really keep Christ in Christmas?  Want to really and truly understand the arrival of a King, a Saviour, a Warrior in the form of a simple and innocent and vulnerable baby?

Wear Jesus this Christmas.

Get a baby doll. Get a sling or a baby carrier.  Name that doll Jesus.  Carry it with you everywhere you go.  Talk to the baby Jesus in your arms.  Keep your doll close to you to protect him and love him and care for him.  Be aware of this tiny life in your arms when you yell at your kids or your spouse, when you raise your hand to spank the dog.  Look at his tiny face when you gossip to your friend over coffee, when you talk behind someone's back.  Hold his small hand when you curse someone in traffic... when you turn a blind eye to the homeless man on the corner.

Do you live your life every day as if you were carrying Jesus in your arms?  Do you live your life each day as though Christ is guiding your heart?  Or do you set the doll aside... flip the switch to off for a break... tuck the doll in a drawer so you don't look uncool around your friends?

Wear Jesus this Christmas.  Hold him in your arms.  Wear him in a sling.  Keep him loved and warm and protected.

Be aware of Jesus in your arms when you hug a child or console someone who is hurting.  Look at his sweet face before you speak any words about another person.  Hold his hand when you pray for others, when you ask for forgiveness.

The best way to "keep Christ in Christmas?"

Keep Christ in YOU.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Christmas List

I think I'm hard to buy for... I don't find that I often want for much of anything.  So I've started making a list.  Things I want that would be great gifts or great goals for me to buy for myself.

Vera Bradley Work Tote

I've been searching for the "perfect" tote.  I carry my laptop to and from work daily. I have a tote I use that I like but it doesn't have all the functionality I'd like it to have.  I came upon this tote - which is more expensive than I'm generally willing to pay for such things - and it seems to have everything I'm wanting.

Sriracha 2 Go

Because Sriracha. All the time, any time. Sriracha.

Remote Starter

I'd love to have my car running but secure. A friend at work has one and can start her car out in the parking lot while sitting at her 3rd floor desk.  There are even systems that operate through an app on your phone!

The Voice Bible

I fell in love with this translation sometime in the last couple of years. I researched it before digging in and it has become my go-to translation when I'm looking at Scripture.  I have it via the Bible Gateway app on my phone but would love a print copy, too.

Fun Socks

I like fun socks. I see no reason for socks to ever be boring.  Bright colors, silly socks, mismatched socks, crazy patterns... I like all kinds of fun socks!

Personal Humidifier

What are you putting on your list this holiday season?

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